Export Now has been featured in the news recently on both Businessweek, and China Daily. We are extremely proud to be at the forefront of small business expansion into China, the biggest market in the world, at present.
Here’s what we’ve been up to behind the scenes lately.
Bloomberg Businessweek: Small Business
Lavin’s connections are helping him build a new kind exporting business. Export Now (it shares his book’s title) is a middleman for U.S. manufacturers that want to sell their consumer products in China. Headquartered in Akron, not far from Lavin’s hometown of Canton, Ohio, the 15-person business handles the headache-inducing back-end work for its clients, from customs clearance to trademark registration to order fulfillment. Lavin says Export Now, which also has an office in Shanghai, is backed by “a few million dollars” in equity capital.
Rather than negotiate with retailers as a traditional distributor would, Export Now posts product descriptions on its storefront on Alibaba Group’sTmall.com, an Amazon (AMZN)-like shopping colossus in China that is adding more foreign retailers as demandamong its nearly 500 million registered users increases for U.S.-branded goods.
China Daily USA
The idea for Export Now arose in December 2010 after months of talks with Alibaba Group, China’s biggest e-commerce provider, through Tmall.com and Taobao, another online shopping site.
“Tmall.com shares a common objective with Export Now, which is to enable a more-rewarding trade experience through e-commerce and provide access to a wider selection of high-quality and authentic products, be they domestic or international,” Alibaba spokeswoman Florence Shih said.
A surge in demand for US brands through Tmall.com, she said, reflects Chinese consumers’ increasingly sophisticated demand for high-quality goods and services.
Here at ExportNow, we hope to make the Chinese market more accessible to small business everywhere. If you are a small business considering pursuing expansion into China, please don’t hesitate to contact us here, or check out our book here.
Export Now Webinar held on June 28:
How to Build Export Sales with
Break-through E-Commerce Solutions
Export Now’s CEO Frank Lavin presented an exciting webinar on how to build
new sales channels through E-Commerce.
In China, there is a hunger for all things American — and U.S. businesses, small and large, are taking note.
According to the U.S.-China Business Council, the Chinese spent $104 billion in U.S. exports in the last year — up 542 percent from 10 years ago.
In China recently, Oscar Atkinson, a CEO at Silicone Arts Labs in Memphis, Tenn., visited with potential partners in Beijing and then went to a medical trade fair in Shenzhen, shopping around his company’s new skin concealer product called Dermaflage.
…But other U.S. entrepreneurs like Lion Brand Yarn in New Jersey have found another way to reach the masses in China — through Export Now, an Amazon.com-like business that helps small- and medium-size U.S. businesses sell to Chinese consumers.
“Much like customers in other parts of the world, Chinese customers are often skeptical about the quality of Chinese-made products,” Export Now said. “U.S. products … are getting more and more welcome in the local market.”
The company, which sells everything from flip-flops to T-shirts and skateboards, said that 370 million Chinese had logged in to shop for U.S products on its website so far and that last year the site had sold $60 billion in U.S products.
4/16/2012 – 4/20/2012
Michigan consumer goods companies interested in reaching new customers in the fastest growing economy in the world have an opportunity to take part in a new exporting pilot program which was detailed in four informational forums that took place around the state in April. (Frank Lavin, Export Now founder and CEO, in photo)
The Export Now informational forum schedule was:
• Monday, April 16 – 2-4pm, Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit
• Tuesday, April 17 – 8:30-10:30am, Rapid Central Station, Grand Rapids
• Wednesday, April 18 – 10am-noon, Lansing Regional Chamber, Lansing
• Friday, April 20 – 8-10am, Four Points Sheraton, Saginaw
State of Michigan to support businesses that want to sell to Chinese consumers
Businesses across Michigan can reach new customers in the fastest growing economy in the world under a new program launched by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. In partnership with the export-services company Export Now, MEDC will help consumer-product companies in the state sell their products directly to Chinese consumers on the world’s largest e-commerce platform.
The innovative program is the simplest and most effective way Michigan companies can attract customers in China.
A CBS Detroit report about the initiative quoted Doug Smith, senior vice president of MEDC, about the new opportunity this program provides to businesses in the state. From the article, Wanted: 100 Michigan Firms With China Dreams!
“We’re the first state in the country to be doing this,” Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Senior Vice President Doug Smith said during taping of “Michigan Matters.” “From our standpoint, it’s an exciting way to test the Chinese market,” Smith added. “With currency exchange and other costs, you will never be able to get into the Chinese market any cheaper than this.”
Frank Lavin, CEO of Export Now, said that the partnership with the State of Michigan demonstrates the crucial role exports play in economic development. “New customers mean more sales and that translates into jobs,” Lavin said. “Through our unique e-commerce solution, we eliminate the challenges of language, culture and regulation that prevent many small businesses from entering new markets.”
Chinese online luxury shoppers can now buy beauty and food products by subscription. Bringing this sales technique to the Chinese e-commerce market, MyLuxBox.com sells subscriptions to patrons who receive a new box of luxury goods each month.
MyLuxBox.com recently received attention from Tech in Asia for its offerings, which include a “beauty box” of high-end cosmetics and skin-care products geared toward both women and men, as well as a “taste box” (an array of dessert snacks).
Cosmetic and food products aren’t all that MyLuxBox.com offers. Each box comes in a stylish package and presents multiple products in small amounts, allowing the consumer to experiment and chose which products they like best. MyLuxBox.com sells the image of beauty along with their luxury products, emphasizing both quality and aesthetic appeal.
The company says it has over a quarter million registered users, with 10,000 subscribers from across 300 of China’s cities having a box delivered every month, and a growth rate of 30% per month.
With seed funding that included a US $400,000 investment from the ZhenFund, MyLuxBox.com may soon have series A backing. That would put it closer to a more established competitor, the Chinese lingerie e-tailor La Miu. This year La Miu is expected to close a round of tens of millions of dollars in new financing, building upon its 2009 series A funding that amounted to about US $5 million. La Miu has added a new line of outdoor wear that is designed and manufactured by the company. The company sells its products on a B2C platform that functions as a high-fashion online mall.
La Miu and MyLuxBox are building e-commerce businesses in part on the quality of their product presentation. American exporters that enter new markets start with the advantages inherent in a foreign novelty. There are several ways to build on that strong foundation. Drawing from the successes of Chinese companies, American exporters can make sure their offerings compete favorably with the in-store experience by providing stylish packaging and a rewarding interactive experience. Exporters seeking to increase sales recognize that while substance is important, presentation is equally significant.
American exports are expected to rise faster than imports over the next five years, with exports to China expected to grow at an annual rate of 7.1% according to an HSBC Bank forecast. Imports from China are expected to grow at a rate of 4.3%.
Many cities and states are seeing exports grow at a much faster rate. As more regions recognize the economic benefits of exports and take steps to encourage global trade, those area will enjoy the steepest growth rates.
Companies in Illinois boosted export revenues by 29% last year according to the International Trade Administration. The state’s largest export category was machinery, which brought in $17.8 billion in revenues for 2011. The Chicago assembly plant of Ford Motor Company is just one of many beneficiaries of this increase in exports, which were mostly sold to buyers in Canada ($19.2 billion), Mexico ($5.7 billion) and China ($3.9 billion).
Texan exports rose by 21% last year, pulling ahead of all other US states. Texas export revenue totaled $249.9 billion. As with Illinois exports, most Texas exports were sold to buyers in Mexico, Canada and China. The Houston-Sugarland-Baytown area alone sold exports that totaled more than $65.8 billion in 2009.
Ohio is also among the states that have ramped up export revenues in recent months. According to the Dayton Business Journal, Ohio companies boosted their export revenue by about 12% last year. The Cincinnati-Middletown metropolitan area exported $15.5 billion worth of merchandise last year, nearly doubling the export revenues of the next best Ohio metropolitan area, Cleveland ($8 billion). Ohio’s exports went mostly to Canada, with Mexico and China trailing close behind.
Not only are US cities exporting a plethora of profitable merchandise, but companies across the country are exporting to essentially the same markets. If these impressive increases in export revenues show anything, it’s that these foreign markets are not saturated and have great potential for more American companies interested in exporting their products.
The National Association of Manufacturers reaches a national audience of business executives with its largest circulation publication — Manufacturing Economy Daily. The Daily is an electronic publication that crisply summarizes about 20 events, policy developments and opportunities for more than 14,000 manufacturing executives. On Feb. 24, thanks to Jeff Ostermayer and Cliff Johnson at NAM, the Manufacturing Economy Daily included this announcement about Export Now:
Export Now Launches Sales Platform That Will Allow Manufacturers To Sell To Chinese Consumers.
American consumer product manufacturers now have an efficient way to reach customers in China. There are over 150 million Chinese shoppers on the world’s largest e-commerce platform, Tmall, and now US companies can sell their products directly on Tmall from their office or factory in the USA. [A] new US company, Export Now, has opened a Tmall store that will sell your products. US companies can register on-line in the US, and Export Now will fill the orders from their China warehouse. “US companies can now post their products with Export Now to sell in China, as easily as they post on eBay or Amazon in the US,” said Export Now President Frank Lavin. With Export Now you work in your language, with your currency, with a web-based dashboard, and you ship to a warehouse in Long Beach, CA. Chinese shoppers use their local e-commerce platform, pay in local currency, review product information in their language, and receive shipments from Export Now’s Shanghai warehouse.
A similar news item appeared earlier this winter in the USDA China e-Newsletter | Volume 1, Issue 2. Thanks to Keith Schneller of the United States Department of Agriculture office in Shanghai, the news appeared under the headline: ”Export Now” – A new way to enter China market.
The February push by President Obama for a “unified federal trade budget” to help American exporters could help more businesses sell more goods to China.
Increased American trade assistance through the US Export-Import bank would be a direct result of the initiative.
A central part of the plan is an effort to establish equitable international standards for government financing of private exporters. The US and China agreed in February to cooperatively develop a set of “guidelines” for export financing through government-backed export credit agencies, or ECAs.
The guidelines are expected to be agreed upon by 2014. The goal of the guidelines that the US and Chinese Exim banks are working out would be to equalize regulations for both countries, leveling the international playing field.
This is good news for American small businesses that are considering or are already exporting to foreign markets. ECAs act as intermediaries between the government and private exporters. Stronger government investment in ECAs will help US exporters establish themselves in foreign markets.
Guidelines agreed to by the US and Chinese governments should reduce any artificial assistance and therefore make competition in the international market more closely resemble domestic competition. ECAs are a standard part of developing export businesses in a national economy, but can distort international markets. As international markets are balanced by regulating government investment in ECAs, private exporters become increasingly confident that their work will become profitable and sustainable.
Export Now Storefront Opens on Tmall: New E-Commerce Route Connects U.S. Companies to Customers in China
American companies now have a new sales platform that allows them to sell directly to Chinese consumers.
Export Now has opened its storefront on the Chinese e-commerce site Tmall, establishing a direct route to the 370 million registered shoppers who use the online retail site.
The storefront is MeiLiKe, a name that sounds similar to the word “America” to Chinese speakers. Three companies, Osprey, Smith Optics and Bones, are among the first Export Now partners to feature products in the MeiLiKe store on Tmall.
Osprey sells high-quality backpacks. Widely praised as lightweight, flexible, convenient and comfortable, Osprey equipment has won loyal customers in many markets. Smith Optics offers a variety of high-performance sunglasses, goggles and helmets. Bones competition-level skateboard wheels and other equipment is revolutionizing the future of skateboarding.
In a congratulatory note to the Export Now staff, CEO and founder Frank Lavin wrote: “The site looks great and the people who make it happen should feel properly proud in the success.”
A simple export solution means more sales without the challenges of travel, language or currency barriers. These first Export Now partners and other companies signing up to join them in the MeiLiKe storefront have considered these core questions and made decisions that focused on efficiently growing sales.
1. What size company is right for your service?
The largest global companies can afford to have managers fly to Shanghai, set up distribution networks and solve legal and customs issues. Even those companies can benefit from another sales channel. Most small or mid-size companies that want to start with a modest investment under carefully controlled conditions will prefer to start with a partner that understands China and has an e-commerce and logistics infrastructure. After years in charge of export promotions for the Commerce Department, our founder, Frank Lavin, recognized that there was no simple toolbox small businesses could use to start exporting. That’s why he developed this solution. Companies that spend all their energies focused on core products and core markets often find it daunting to enter new markets. Those companies value the ease and reach of the Export Now platform.
2. What do I do to get started?
You register on the Export Now platform just the way you would register as a seller on EBay or Amazon. You upload product information and ship your product on consignment to our warehouse in Long Beach, Calif. As sales patterns take shape, some companies will replenish product more quickly than others. If you have trade show samples or other products in China that you decide to use to start the process, you can ship those products directly to our warehouse in Shanghai.
More information is available from the Export Now advisors.